The Outer Realms are in crisis. After nearly four decades of summer, winter has descended, bringing desperation and chaos with it. In the north, a growing horde of bugbears gathers beneath the great wall at Wulfric's Keep, while the town of St. Rufinus, once a center of faith and commerce, is rumored to be infested with undead after a mysterious plague killed most of the residents. Further south, small bands of bugbears and hill giants have managed to cross the thickening sea ice to prey on coastal villages and travelers on the Shepherds' Road.

You are one of such travelers. The convoy of oxcart sleds with which you were traveling was beset by a bugbear raiding party, and you were captured. After taunting and beating you, the bugbears bound you, piled you into the back of a sled with your fellow prisoners and lashed a tarp over you, which helped ward off the wind and cold but locked you in darkness for the length of the journey.

After a cramped and arduous journey of several days, the bugbears finally removed the tarp, dragged you into the sunlight and locked you in a crude circular cage made of narrow tree trunks driven into the frozen ground.You appear to be on the edge of a frozen bay, with mountains behind you and the frozen water stretching out toward what looks like a hazy shoreline far to the west.

Your situation is grim, and you know that if you are to escape, you must do so soon. You have no shelter, so you huddle together for warmth, but you still grow weaker with each passing night. Once per day, a small goblin brings you an iron pot of stewed, musky-tasting meat and a clay jug of half-frozen water, but it is so meager that you feel your body beginning to waste beneath your ragged clothing.

Will you be able to escape? Or will you meet whatever fate awaits you as prisoners and slaves?

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Ensnarl a Jarl
Deep in the Glacial Rift taunts hollered from our tongues wagging.

The Frost Giant Jarl, unawares, sends another beastly white dragon.

Little did he know, Winters Bane fights like crazed demons.

You see, our crew was covered in magical bear semen.

As a result, ‘twas the softheaded Jarl’s loot we started bagging.

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It is cold, the winter morning, but Valindra has risen early to practice sword-craft with Solera. Soon the others will rise from their bedrolls to break camp. Jarl Grugnar has fallen, and they have claimed The Orb of the Autumn Winds. A long journey to the Forest of Ardred now awaits.

Valindra breaths deeply of the frigid morning air and takes stock of her surroundings. A few flakes of snow fall gently. The saw tooth mountainsides rise around them into the grey sky. And her opponent, Solera Windrunner, awaits her some twelves paces across the snow covered ground. Should she come at her high or low, Valindra wonders. No matter what the angle of attack, the snow elf always seems to have a response.

Since winning Bodil from the risen dead on the sea ice, Valindra has felt the need to hone her skill with a blade. Such a mighty and elegant weapon demands nothing less than a skilled hand to wield it. Though the longbow has always been her weapon of choice, she has of course received training in the art of the sword. But she knows that she can improve. And who better to tutor her than Solera.

Valindra has never seen one more gifted with the sword than she. More than once in the midst of pitched battle, she has found herself utterly awed by Solera, awed by her grace and savagery as she weaves a singing net of steel about herself and glides deftly among her foes. Most barely register that death has come as the sword-maiden slips inside their defenses, strikes the killing blow, and circles on to the next. While in battle, she embodies both poise and ferocity. At times she seems almost a dancer whose feet barely kiss the ground. But she is a vicious killer as well, cleaving helm and byrnie alike with antaean strength as she hews down those foolish enough to oppose her. And she is awed by her in other ways as well. Yes, Valindra counts herself lucky to have such a skilled teacher.

Over these long months, through all their trials and travails, she has grown ever closer to her teammates. Ainorei, Blair, RaRa, Diogenes, have all become her family. Revanthas. It is the Elvish word for “Friend,” and is the same word as “Clan.” It means other things as well, things which cannot well be translated into human tongues. It is a title reserved for only for the closest of companions and the members of one’s own tribe. For the elves, all people of the world are either Revanthas or Ravathas-neh. Not clan. There is no longer any doubt what these companions have become to her.

But there is something different than Revanthas in her feelings toward Solera. Something more. Something not felt for many seasons.

Valindra watches her now, as she readies herself for the first move in their morning dance. Eyes of blue ice, white hair streaming like fire in the morning breeze, faint smirk playing about her mouth, twin swords at the ready. Her beauty is as still sunsets of bitter evenings when all the world is frore, a wonder and a chill. She is as a sun-stricken mountain uplifted alone, all beautiful with ice, a desolate and lonely radiance late at evening far up beyond the comfortable world, not quite to be companioned by the stars, the doom of the mountaineer, a boon to her friends.*

“Are you just going to stand there all day, Lindy, or are we going to spar?”

Her reverie broken by Solera’s playful taunt Valindra smiles and launches herself at her partner. Swords whistle and steel sings.

Thus their dance begins.

*Lord Dunsany
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Frost Giant Treasure
You recovered the following from the frost giants' lair:

Dragons' lair
72,000 silver pieces
2966 platinum pieces
8 silver boxes filled with ivory, each worth 1400 GP (box) and 1500 (ivory)
An alabaster statue worth 4000 GP
12 1000 GP gems

Jarl Grugnar's Lair

142,970 GP
A drinking horn worth 8,000 GP
Jewelry worth 9,000 GP
Assorted gems worth 34,100 GP

Total GP value: 294,930

Holy shit.
Session: Game Session #26 - Sunday, Dec 15 2019 from 6:00 PM to 11:00 PM
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Gwydion Guile
Blair: It’s an old spell, perhaps as old as Gwydion Himself.

Solera: Have you seen it used?

The two friends are deep into their mugs of ale, maybe their fourth or fifth mugs.

Blair: I remember an elder war priest. His muscles were thin but his mind was sharp. He threw those skinny arms skyward as if about to dance. Then pushed his palms forward - I remember thinking he was forcing a belief through the air into the mind of that bugbear.

Solera: Did it work?

Blair: (Tossing her hands, losing then regaining control of her ale) Ohhhhh yes!

Solera: (leaning in) Well? What happened?

Blair: Looked so sad. Dropped his axe.

Solera: Idiot! Why?

Blair: The spell made the bugbear certain the axe was too heavy for him. Just stared and stared, wishing he was strong enough to pick it up again.

(Both laugh, imagining the bugbear, impotent fingers curled, gazing longingly at his weapon.)

Solera: So...the spell could make them think anything, like: Bugs are crawling all over your skin...rub those bugs off, rub rub rub!!

Blair: Yes!

(They clink mugs and take a long swallow)

Blair: Or maybe...Your mother is calling, you forgot to feed the goats you imbecile! And they run like hell to go find the goats...

(Another clink, another gulp of ale)

Solera: Your fingers have turned into worms!

(They clink, tip their mugs, find them empty and sloppily pour themselves more.)

Blair: We are massive killer moths which fill your heart with dread!

(An overexuberant clink spills ale down both their shirts)

Blair:I have one! Your pants are on fire! Run into the lake and keep running!

Solera: (giggling) Or, your manhood is on fire! Quick run to the pub and douse it in a tankard!

Blair: Good one! I may try that...
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Why Yell when You Can Whisper?
Precious few thing are predictable now: cold, death, and the almost amusing power of Valindra and Solera. There are moments when I nearly feel sorry for the creatures foolhardy enough to challenge us. The ease with which they dispense with formidable foes is a wonderment, and one that lulls me into a sense of confidence and security. I have grown accustomed to moving between their feet or hovering just overhead, lighting up their targets and distracting and weakening where I can. I didn’t fully realize until today just how strongly I depended on the idea that they will ultimately take out anyone standing between us and survival.

When the moment came and Valindra put her bow away and instead drew her long sword, I heard myself utter a prayer for Whisper. Whisper is the truest of friends, seldom missing and lethal to her core, an extension of the elf herself. I felt myself dancing nervously in the air, terrified for us all. I had rarely observed Valindra with a sword, and wondered at her motivation now, when faced with these beasts, who outnumbered us badly in their territory. Only later I conceded that she is just as competent with a sword, but it frightened me nonetheless. The odds of a death blow seem far greater the closer we have to be. I would just as soon battle from afar, watching with confidence as arrows and arcs of fire slice the air.
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